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Biomes of North America

How do temperature and precipitation affect the distribution of plants and animals?

Have you ever wondered why no polar bears are in California, or cacti in Alaska? The amount of precipitation and the temperature varies tremendously across North America, resulting in well-defined community boundaries or biomes that are suitable for some populations but not for others.

Model 1 Biomes of North America

Average Precipitation and Temperature


Tropical Rainforest






Temperate Deciduous Forest


Coniferous Forest/

Average Precipitation (cm)




Average Temperature (C)

1. According to Model 1, which two biomes have the same amount of rainfall?
2. Which biome in Model 1 has the most rainfall?
3. Which biome has the highest average temperature?
4. Which two biomes have nearly the same average temperature?

Biomes of North America

5. Refer to Model 1.
a. Name the three different types of forests shown in Model 1.
b. What is another name for the coniferous forest?
6. Refer to Model 1.
a. What characteristic differentiates the tundra and the desert?
b. Why might the tundra also be known as the frozen desert?

7. Consider the biomes in Model 1 with moderate temperatures.

a. What characteristic differentiates the grasslands and temperate deciduous forests?
b. What would be the most likely reason for the grasslands having grasses rather than trees as
their dominant plant species?

8. Describe the relationship between temperature, rainfall, and the type of forest.

POGIL Activities for High School Biology

Model 2 Plant and Animal Species in North American Biomes

Reindeer moss, lichen,

Arctic heather, dwarf willow,

Distance from the Equator

(Latitudinal Region)

reindeer, caribou, polar bear



Pine, cedar, spruce, heather, wolf, mountain

lion, grizzly bear, black bear, bald eagle,
moose, squirrel

Oak, maple, hickory, sassafras, deer, squirrel, raccoon,

skunk, rabbit, owl, fox, wolf, black bear, carpet moss
Big blue stem, rye, wheat, oat, creosote bush, bison,
coyote, prairie dog, grasshopper, fox, hawk, sparrow,
Prickly pear, creosote bush, yucca,
coyote, rattlesnake, roadrunner,
armadillo, tarantula

Tropical Mahogany, coconut palm, coffee, cocoa, orchid, fern, moss, lemon, orange, pineapple,
mangrove, pitcher plant, parrot, hornbill, monkey, jaguar, boa constrictor, toucan,
tapir, sloth, dart frog, centipede, crocodile, bat, anaconda, anteater, longhorn beetle,
giant walking stick, bird of paradise


Trend in number of species

9. The six bars in Model 2 represent the six North American biomes introduced in Model 1, and
include a list of some plants and animals typically found in each biome.
a. What information is represented by the x-axis in Model 2?
b. What information is represented by the y-axis in Model 2?
c. How might the y-axis information in Model 2 be related to one of the data axes in Model 1?

Biomes of North America

10. Identify each of the six biomes found in North America on the map below. Average rainfall data
is given to help you choose between biomes in the same latitudinal region.


Rainfall (cm)







11. Use information from Model 1 and the map in Question 10 to label the six biomes in the chart
in Model 2.
12. Refer to Model 2.
a. Which latitudinal region contains the fewest number of species?
b. List the biome(s) found in this latitudinal region.
c. Which latitudinal region contains the largest number of species?
d. List the biome(s) found in this latitudinal region.

POGIL Activities for High School Biology

13. Biodiversity is a term used to describe the variety of plant and animal species in a given biome.
An ecosystem or biome that supports a large variety of species is very biodiverse.
a. What biome in North America has the highest biodiversity?
b. What characteristics of this biome enable it to support such a high level of biodiversity?
c. What biome in North America has the lowest biodiversity?
d. What characteristics of this biome make it difficult for a high level of biodiversity to develop?
14. What is the general trend of the biodiversity in biomes as the latitude moves from the arctic
region towards the equator?

Biomes of North America

Extension Questions
15. The grasslands biome is considered to be the bread basket of our country because it is a hub
of agricultural activities, particularly grain farming (wheat, corn, rye, oats, etc.). Much of the
U.S. animal farming and meat production also occurs here, since the animals are often grain-fed.
Recent climate change models suggest that as the planet warms, rainfall in this region will
drop and temperatures will rise. Use the information from this activity to answer the following
a. What characteristics of the grasslands biome make it a critical source of food for the U.S. and
other countries?

b. If rainfall in the grasslands biome does decrease as the climate change model suggests, to what
type of biome would the grasslands biome convert?

c. Assume that the climate change model accurately predicts the change to this biome over the
next 50 years. What results would this have on our countrys ability to support its people?

16. One of todays most serious environmental problems is the dramatic loss of the tropical rainforest
through deforestation. Explain, using the information from this activity and outside sources, how
deforestation is resulting in devastating consequences for our environment.

POGIL Activities for High School Biology